By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Another Playoff race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and another Playoff competitor flies just under the radar. Ryan Blaney quietly ran inside the top-10 the entire day, but never had the opportunity to compete for the victory.
Blaney had a quiet weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as focus was on Toyotas’ domination once again as well as Joey Logano’s practice penalty. He finished ninth, despite running fifth and ninth at the end of the first two stages. Blaney avoided trouble in his No. 21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford Fusion throughout the entirety of the event.
Just as it was at Chicagoland passing was at a premium, even with the application of the PJ1 traction compound. The quick pace that race leaders Martin Truex, Jr., and eventual race winner Kyle Busch had left little time for their competition to catch up. It was an accident on the track that changed the complexion of the ISM Connect 300. Contact between Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick sent Harvick spinning. In the dense smoke, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeffrey Earnhardt, Kurt Busch, race leader Truex, among others piled into Harvick’s stationary Ford Fusion.
Blaney admitted that his race at ‘The Magic Mile’ was not one of his best,
“We were kind of in that fifth to 10th range all day and we ended up with a decent finish. We worked hard on this race track. It definitely has not been one of my best, but it’s nice to see a decent run here. We finished OK and go on to a place like Dover, where we run pretty decent. Hopefully, we can survive next week and move on.”
Blaney moved up from 10th to eighth in the Playoff standings. He now sits 79-points behind point leader Truex and just 26-points ahead of the cutoff, currently held by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Looking ahead to next weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway, Blaney’s odds are not looking good. Among active drivers at the ‘Magic Mile,’ he has the 42nd-best average finish. In the five most recent races at the 1-mile track, Blaney is 39th in average finishes with a driver rating of 75.5.
In Blaney’s career at Dover, he has just one top-10 finish. However, this is in just three career starts at the high-banked oval. His best career finish at Dover is an eighth-place finish in the 2016 Spring race.
Now Blaney, crew chief Jeremy Bullins, and the entire No. 21 team will look to improve on these stats as they hope to lock themselves into the Round of 12 for the Playoffs.